It is widely recognized that feedbacks exist between plant litter and plant community species composition, but this relationship is difficult to interpret over heterogeneous conditions typical of modified environments such as roadways. Given the need to expedite natural recovery of disturbed areas through restoration interventions, we characterized litter accumulation and nutrient content (i.e., organic carbon, total N, and P) and quantified their association with key plant species. Plant species cover and litter characteristics were sampled at 18 successional forest plant communities along major roadways in Sichuan Basin, western China. Variation in litter across communities was assessed with principal component analysis (PCA) and species with the highest correlation to PCA axes were determined with Pearson’s r
coefficients. Plant communities with the longest time since road construction (i.e., 70 years) were distinctly different in litter total N and organic carbon compared to plant communities with a shorter disturbance history. We encountered 59 plant species across sampling plots, but only four rare species (i.e., frequency < 5) were strongly correlated with litter characteristics (p
< 0.01); none of which were the most abundant where they occurred. These results highlight the importance of site-specific factors (i.e., geographic location, disturbance age) regulating plant litter across heavily disturbed landscapes and how litter characteristics and rare plant species are correlated.
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